Assemblywoman Celeste M. Riley was sworn into the General Assembly on March 16, 2009, where she represents New Jersey's Third Legislative District. Assemblywoman Riley is the first woman to represent this district in the New Jersey State Legislature.
Assemblywoman Riley serves as Chairwoman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, Vice-Chair of the Tourism and Arts Committee, and is a member of the Transportation, Public Works, and Independent Authorities Committee. In the past, she has served as Vice-Chair of the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and has served on the Health and Senior Services and Housing and Local Government Committees.
As the former Vice-Chair of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, Assemblywoman Riley is an advocate for the "Garden State" and believes New Jersey should promote industries that enhance its agricultural roots. Her efforts to support New Jersey's rich agricultural heritage have been the hallmark of her legislative service. As a representative of one of the largest agricultural communities, she was the driving force for legislation to promote and expand the branding of "Jersey Fresh," a program designed to draw consumer attention to the availability of New Jersey farm products. Assemblywoman Riley is also a supporter of land preservation and has sponsored numerous laws that would provide funding for open space, historic preservation, and farmland preservation.
In her second Assembly term, Assemblywoman Riley has been a prominent leader for women's issues. She has worked tirelessly for social justice, advocating for women's rights and working to end domestic violence and its effects on children and families. In 2011, Riley created legislation, now law, to increase bail restrictions on persons who violate restraining orders in domestic violence matters. Riley is a sponsor of the "New Jersey Crime Victim's Bill of Rights" and "New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act," and has authored legislation establishing a new crime of domestic violence if committed in the presence of a child. Additionally, she sponsored numerous bills to help bridge the gender pay equity gap and fight discrimination in the workplace. She continues to advocate for legislation to protect women, children, and crime victims and ensure everyone's basic rights are protected.
As Chairwoman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, Riley has been credited for sponsoring the "New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act." A landmark law, set to transform New Jersey's Higher Education structure by establishing Rowan University as a research university and creating a Medical and Health Science partnership between Rutgers University-Camden and Rowan University. The act also merged the University of Medicine and Dentistry with Rutgers University-New Brunswick and created a Medical School within Rutgers University. In June 2012, after touring college campuses across the State, Assemblywoman Riley sponsored a $750 million dollar Higher Education bond referendum, which was approved by voters in November 2012. The measure will distribute funds to colleges and universities to construct and equip higher education facilities, such as academic buildings and science labs.
Assemblywoman Celeste Riley was named "Legislator of the Year" by The Garden State Wine Growers for her legislative efforts to promote the wine industry. She also received the "Citizen of the Year" award from the Salem County Chamber of Commerce in recognition of her efforts to improve the economic development and business climate for Salem County and surrounding areas. She received the 2012 Distinguished Legislator Award from the New Jersey Food Council Committee for Good Government for her leadership and support of New Jersey's businesses and food industry. Riley has also been awarded numerous awards for advocacy and leadership for women's issues including recognition from, "I'm Free Ministries" and by Salem County Women's Services with its "Person of the Year" award for her legislative efforts on behalf of domestic violence and sexual assault victims.
A long-time resident of Bridgeton, Assemblywoman Riley got her start in public service by serving as a member of Bridgeton City Council and quickly rose to become the governing body's president. As Council President, she worked on several priorities, including the city clean-up initiative, "Building a Better Bridgeton," which aimed to encourage community involvement. She served as the council's liaison to the Bridgeton Library and Historical Commission and served on the Main Street Design, Downtown Steering, and Central Business District and Multi-Dwelling Complex Security committees.
A graduate of Cumberland Regional High School, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in music from LaSalle University and holds a Master's Degree in Arts Administration from Drexel University. Currently, Assemblywoman Riley is a teacher at the Greenwich-Stow Creek Partnership Elementary School in Greenwich-Stow Creek Township.